If You Don't Have This in Your Home, You're at Higher Risk for COVID
Health experts say this one home tool could make all the difference in preventing COVID spread.
Protection from the coronavirus is even more important now, with the United States reaching new COVID death toll highs daily. And while you may think you're safe when you're inside, your home could be one of the places you should be the most worried about protecting yourself. According to an October report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), if someone in your home is infected, the likelihood of someone else in the home getting infected is more than 50 percent. And health experts say that if you don't have a humidifier in your home, you could be making your COVID risk even higher. Keep reading to find out how having a humidifier could protect you from coronavirus, and for more on how the virus spreads, You're More Likely to Catch COVID in This Surprising Place, Study Finds.
Stephanie Taylor, an infection control consultant at Harvard Medical School and medical advisor for Condair Group, says low humidity is the ideal environmental condition for viruses—including COVID—to survive for extended periods of time. She says that in low humidity environments, when "an infected person sneezes or coughs, the particles remain in the air longer, hence increasing the risk of spreading the virus to others."
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that indoor humidity levels fall between 40 and 60 percent relative humidity (RH) to reduce the chances for infectious particles to spread. As Jenna Liphart Rhoads, PhD, a nurse and a health care education advisor for Nurse Together, notes, winter conditions aren't exactly favorable to those levels.
"The outside air in the winter is generally much drier than that of fall, summer, and spring, and running home and building heating systems makes the indoor air become even less humidified," Rhoads explains. "Additionally, the mucous membranes inside the nose become drier in the winter months due to the dry air, and they become more susceptible to viral infection."
To help raise humidity to the EPA-recommended levels, Taylor says a humidifier is the best home tool you can use. Increasing the RH in your home will make it more difficult for viral particles to survive. Rhoads says the addition of a humidifier in the home can also increase "the moisture in the nasal mucous membranes," which could also help prevent airborne viral infection.
Many health experts are so convinced of the relationship between humidity and COVID spread that they have joined forces to persuade the World Health Organization (WHO) to create regulations on indoor humidity levels. They say that humidity levels below 40 percent RH allow respiratory viruses to thrive by three different means: impairing the respiratory immune system's defenses, increasing the virus' "float time," and creating longer survival time for the virus.
Of course, not having a humidifier isn't the only way you're increasing your chances of coronavirus infection. Read on for more mistakes that could be putting you at risk, and if you're worried about getting sick, This Strange Pain Could Be the First Sign You Have COVID, Study Says.
Driving with the windows up
Going from your home to your car isn't going to help you much if you make this mistake. A study published in the Science Advances journal on Dec. 4 had researchers use computer models to simulate airflow inside a car that was loosely based on a Toyota Prius with various combinations of windows opened and closed. They found that the combination that led to the highest COVID risk was having all four windows closed while more than one person was in the car. And if you're wondering what having coronavirus is really like, Ellen DeGeneres Reveals the "One Thing They Don't Tell You" About COVID.
Running your ceiling fan
Don't assume your heating devices are the only thing putting you at risk. Running your ceiling fan could be equally as dangerous. A team of German aerosol scientists called the German Working Committee on Particulate Matter recently identified some of the worst ventilation risks in the home and found that "ceiling fans recirculate air, likely keeping virus particles in the air for longer." And for more on the future of the pandemic, Dr. Fauci Just Debunked the 4 Biggest Myths About the COVID Vaccine.
Spending time with your spouse
Sorry to all the married couples—but your spouse is the person who is most likely to give you COVID. A meta-analysis published in the journal JAMA Network Open on Dec. 14 found that spouses were responsible for transmission in nearly 38 percent of coronavirus cases out of 54 studies that spanned 20 countries and nearly 78,000 subjects. And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Eating at restaurants
All these household concerns shouldn't drive you out to the nearest restaurant, however—as this is one of the most dangerous places to be. A study from the CDC, published on Sept. 11, found that "adults with positive SARS-CoV-2 test results were approximately twice as likely to have reported dining at a restaurant than were those with negative SARS-CoV-2 test results." And for more on coronavirus risks, If You Have This Blood Type, You're at a High Risk of Severe COVID.